Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Blue


Joni Mitchell wrote a melancholy song called, "Blue" that comes into my head every so often. The lyrics don't reach out to me - I don't relate to them, but the way she sings the word, 'Blue,' gets to me. The notes of that one word travel up, down and back again. A one syllable journey. The lyrics keep going, but they don't matter - I am still stuck on 'Blue'.

Blue things - eyes, skies, seas - are romanticized, but the blue on my mind right now is the berry. More specifically, the blueberry muffin. Second only to the heavenly cinnamon roll, a blueberry muffin reminds me so much of being a little girl. My mom used to work in the Coco's bakery in Carlsbad when I was six or seven, and after her shift, she would bring me home a blueberry muffin if there were any leftover from the breakfast rush. We didn't have much of anything at the time, making that muffin all the more extraordinary.


I searched a long time for the perfect blueberry muffin recipe - tender, sweet but not overly so, piled with plump, slightly tangy berries, even more delicious the day after they are baked. I've got some high standards for this muffin - anything from childhood memory has to be just so to be right. This recipe is just so right.

Here is my best blueberry muffin recipe - I have adapted my recipe from the one in Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook.


Makes 1 dozen
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2 cups frozen blueberries
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a muffin pan with cooking spray, or use paper liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Working over the bowl, toss blueberries in a fine sieve with about 1 1/2 teaspoons flour mixture to lightly coat; set aside the flour mixture and the blueberries.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a handheld mixer, beat butter and 1 cup sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined. Mix in vanilla.

With the mixer on low speed, add reserved flour mixture, beating until just combined. Add buttermilk, beating until just combined. Do not overmix. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the blueberries. Divide batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups.

Bake until muffins are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center of one muffin comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool 10 minutes. Turn muffins on their sides in their cups, and let cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.



Monday, July 26, 2010

Simple Things - Umbrella Apple Cake

Sometimes you just have to sit back and appreciate the simple things: a glass of tangy-sweet iced lemonade on a boiling summer afternoon; a perfectly-saccharine wedge from a drum-thumped watermelon;  incredibly ripe California nectarine juice dripping down your chin as you take a giant bite...


It is easy to get lost in our lives and forget to notice the simple things. Easy to eat, drink, live, without really even noticing it at all. There are bills to pay, after all. People to worry about, grass to mow, jobs to do, kids to wrangle, and well, this list could go on and on. The struggles distract us from what could be so pure and simple - love and life, happiness and peace. However, without the sour, sweet would be nothing notable, I suppose. We need occasional discord to understand the glory of harmony. I know it, but it doesn't mean I like it. 


I want to share something simple, spectacular, and glorious with you, because life can just suck sometimes. No matter how much life pours, this cake is like an umbrella of goodness, simplicity, bounty. I just really like this cake, and I know you will too. 


This is my Umbrella Apple Cake. I don't have a picture as of yet, since it never lasts long enough for me to take one. I will work on that...



For the cake:
1 and 1/4 cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon                       
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup whole milk
1/3 cup Canola oil
1 egg
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

For the topping:
5 1/2 tablespoons(80gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extra 

Prepare the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray the inside of a 9-inch round baking pan. In large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking powder. Reserve. In another large bowl, whisk together the milk, oil and egg until just blended.
Slowly pour the liquids over the dry ingredients, whisking well to make sure that everything is well incorporated, about 40 to 50 strokes.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and arrange the apple slices on top in a circular pattern.
Prepare the topping:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and the vanilla extract and whisk until smooth. Reserve

Bake the cake in the oven for 12-14 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and spread the creamy butter topping over the top. Bake an additional 25-30 minutes or until it springs back when gently touched.




Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Seductive Summer Sauce


The sun started to set over my mom's kitchen garden when the peppery basil plants whispered, "transform us into glorious pesto, Lindsay..." Ok, so that is a little over dramatic, but it was really so cool to go into a flourishing garden, grab a few handfuls of green, herb-y goodness, and just go with it. 

If you have never made pesto before, now is definitely the time to start. Don't be afraid of this true green goddess of sauces. You will be amazed at how a few simple ingredients come together to form a masterpiece of flavor - each element enhancing the other into a harmonious summer sauce. In fact, the mother of authentic Italian cooking in America, Marcella Hazan, said that pesto is, "the most seductive all all sauces for pasta." For something that is never cooked, pesto is HOT

Did I mention how crazy fast it is to make too? If you can get your hands on a food processor (like a Cuisinart) pesto takes less than a minute to assemble. If you are more of a purist (aka, kinda crazy) you can use a pestle and mortar which will take markedly longer, but hey it has worked for thousands of years, so who am I to judge? 

Pesto - Six Servings

1 1/2 lbs of pasta (spaghetti, linguine, and penne all work well)
2 cups of fresh basil leaves tightly packed
1/2 to 2/3 cups extra virgin olive oil (the best you can get your hands on)
2 tablespoons of pine nuts
5-7 walnut halves
1 peeled clove of garlic
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
Salt
2 tablespoons butter

Process 

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. While the pasta cooks, rinse the basil and spin dry. Place garlic, basil, nuts, cheese and oil in a food processor. Run the processor until the mixture is smooth and creamy (you may have to scrape down the sides a few times with a silicone spatula). 

Reserve a few tablespoons of water from the pasta water when the pasta is done cooking, and mix with the butter. Drain pasta and add several heaping spoons of the pesto sauce and the water/butter mixture. Check for salt - add more if needed, and serve immediately. 






Fixed Recipe Zucchini Cake

OOPS! Thanks to my mom, I found that I had omitted the sugar and when to add the zucchini to my zucchini cake recipe. Here is the full recipe - hopefully mistake free! Oh, and since my mother in law is here, I will have a new zucchini recipe to share with you all soon! 


Shred 1 pound of zucchini in a food processor with the shredding attachment and put in a mesh strainer (or if you don't have that, use a colander). Let this mess of green drain for an hour or more. If you want to help it along by squeezing the juices out, do it. The dryer the better. 

Here are the ingredients:
1 lb zucchini shredded
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups of sugar1/4 cup yogurt (I use an entire Activia yogurt - peach, strawberry, whatever I have!)
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon lemon juice
6 tablespoons of canola oil

Process:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray a 13x9" rectangular cake pan with cooking spray. Whisk flour, baking soda and powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk sugar, yogurt, eggs, lemon juice, and canola oil in another bowl until combined. Fold the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture just until combined, add zucchini to the batter. Transfer the batter to your cake pan and bake for 25-30 minutes until the cake springs back when you touch the center. Let it cool for at least 30 minutes before you cut. 

Friday, July 9, 2010

More Zucchini Fun

We finally have more zucchini than is actually reasonable for one family to have, and I love it. My mom and I both have generous plants that push out plump zucchini like factories. As I write, the house is sleeping and a zucchini bundt cake is puffing up in the oven for breakfast. Yes, cake for breakfast - it has loads of zucchini so it is ok, right?

Yesterday, for lunch, I made some zucchini fritters that passed the Alex test. In fact he actually asked for them again at dinner. Made from zucchini I shredded in the food processor, dried of excess water in a colander, these crispy patties are savory, flavorful disks of goodness. So easy, and another clever way to transform this amazing, under-rated veg into something you actually want to eat.



Zucchini Fritters

Zucchini - 2 small or 1 medium grated
2 teaspoons of kosher salt
2 tablespoons of minced onion or 4 minced scallions
Chopped fresh parsley to taste about a half of a cup (or replace parsley with 4-5 chopped fresh basil leaves)
1 beaten egg
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup flour
olive oil for pan

Shred two small or one medium zucchini in the food processor with the shredding attachment. This really the very best way to do it - anything else is just a big watery mess. Place zucchini with two teaspoons of kosher salt in a colander that sits on top of a cookie sheet, which catches the water for easier clean up. Let it sit for ten minutes then squeeze out all the moisture you can - just get it out, it will make a crisper fritter.

Mix the zucchini with the minced onion or scallions (make sure these are really minced because the onion will not cook fast enough if it is diced, leading to annoying crisp onions inside the fritter. gick.), the chopped parsley, 1 slightly beaten egg, the cheese, and the flour. Preheat a nonstick pan coated with a sheen of olive oil. Scoop spoon fulls of the fritter batter into your pan and flatten with a spatula. Cook 3-4 minutes until golden and then flip, press down with the spatula again until golden on the flip side.

I think the old standard of putting anything fried or pan fried onto paper towels is just not helpful to the food at all. The food sits in its own oily moisture which depresses the food so much, it just wilts into a pool of mush. Instead, use a cooling rack that you put hot from the oven cookies on, over a baking sheet or plate that has the paper towel on it. So everyone wins here, and the food stays crisp just as it should be. Season with salt.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

3D Memories

Why is smell such a potent deliverer of memory and time? If you have ever ridden the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, you will recognize that smell forever after, and it will bring you right back to that delicious, dank, Disney place.

I have had chocolate chip cookies baking in my oven all evening and I wonder if this is a smell my boys will hold in their minds long after their childhood is a memory. For me it is the sharp smell of cinnamon that brings me right back to being seven years old; waking up before the sun to get our cinnamon roll selling booth up at Kobe's swap meet. And what about butter melting in a pot of creamy mashed potatoes...that is my grandma's house, hands down. Fresh tomato sauce bubbling is the first time my husband made me pasta fourteen years ago...every time I make it, it is 1996 again for a split moment. I love favorite smell memories - they are like memories in 3D.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

All American Abundance, Freedom, and Zucchini

The Fourth of July comes with its very own food culture - there are foods that come out on this day that just shout summer. Tomorrow my mom and I have planned a food and drink filled get together with some friends and family that will be topped off by the very first concert of The Living Room Band!



More than anything, this day is about celebrating all that is American and the glory of Freedom. The past year I have really been searching for a way to find freedom in my own life as a mom, wife, and aspiring something or other (there are lots).It is not always easy to find that place where you can let go when the roles we play in life can take over so completely. There can be an overwhelming feeling of being shut in, with nothing you can call your own anymore.

The turning point for me came after my grandfather's passing last year. He was pretty much one of best people on the planet (in my opinion). He never said negative things about people no matter what, and was really kind to everyone. He saw the other person's point of view, he appreciated every day he had on the planet, never took anything for granted, gave away everything to everyone, and he was always the first one in the food line with me. We always had a laugh about that. He was a patriot, he loved America and freedom. He always included a prayer for the troops and their families when he blessed Sunday dinners.



So the first thing that happened to me after he left us was this desire to run. Just run and feel my body breathe, sweat, move. I signed up for the gym, and now run, bike, swim. I find freedom there in that hour while my kids are wildly making mischief in the kids club, and I feel alive.

Grandpa always told me I had missed my calling when ever I would show up to one of our family dinners with a little movie I had made or edited together. He was my biggest fan, and always seemed amazed at what I could do. I don't know if that is because of the 'newfangled technology' or because he saw something more in me that I didn't see. On May 14th of this year, what would have been his 92nd birthday, I sent in my application for the Next Food TV Star competition, and made it as one of the 8 finalists. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life. I felt the freedom that comes with finally doing something you know you were meant to do.



The Living Room Band, the one I mentioned at the beginning of this long-winded post having little to do with food so far (to those of you still reading, I will surly get to it eventually ), is where I find myself most free. I get to sing and be part of this great group of musicians who just make every Thursday the best Thursday ever. Singing is something I really always loved, but never pursued, probably out of fear or something lame like that. But now I stand there and really just leave it out on the living room floor when I sing. I make time for music thanks to grandpa who showed me to appreciate every day. It isn't always easy, I feel guilty sometimes, but then we have a moment as a band where everything is just perfect, and I know I am doing the right thing. It is important to find and celebrate small freedoms.

Then there is this whole food thing. I am getting to a point of knowledge now that I am kinda proud of. Lots of reading, and tons cooking of course, has started to pay off; mostly when I can share what I know with someone else. We all have to eat, so I love to show people ways they can be more creative, more free, in their own kitchens.

Ok, enough of the babble! When I think of abundance and summer, the mighty zucchini comes to my mind. So tomorrow, for my part of the cooking, along with the cabbage slaw, homemade mac and cheese, and fruit salad I am going to make my zucchini cake. Actually it is a zucchini bread recipe, but I make it in a rectangle cake pan and it is excellent. Slather it with cream cheese frosting, and no one will ever imagine they are eating something with zucchini.



Shred 1 pound of zucchini in a food processor with the shredding attachment and put in a mesh strainer (or if you don't have that, use a colander). Let this mess of green drain for an hour or more. If you want to help it along by squeezing the juices out, do it. The dryer the better.

Here are the ingredients:
1 lb zucchini shredded
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup yogurt (I use an entire Activia yogurt - peach, strawberry, whatever I have!)
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon lemon juice
6 tablespoons of canola oil

Process:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray a 13x9" rectangular cake pan with cooking spray. Whisk flour, baking soda and powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk sugar, yogurt, eggs, lemon juice, and canola oil in another bowl until combined. Fold the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture just until combined. Transfer the batter to your cake pan and bake for 25-30 minutes until the cake springs back when you touch the center. Let it cool for at least 30 minutes before you cut.

Slather with that delightfully evil cream cheese frosting and find people falling at your feet in amazement that they are eating zucchini anything.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Almost



I was chosen as one of the 8 finalists for the Next Food TV Star competition and had a great time doing my demo. In the end, I lost to a communications professor from Thousand Oaks who enters and wins every county fair competition she enters from Ventura on down to Del Mar. Those less fortunate in their county fair endeavors (ie: the other seven of us who lost to this fair winning savant) are supposed to go back on July 5 and see her be crowned the winner.

At first I thought, "No way. Why rub it in," but then I started thinking that it would be interesting to see what she had that I didn't, learn from it and get better. Get better and better so when it is my time, the rest of the jokers can eat my dust. Got fire in my belly today!

To be honest, the experience far out weighed winning or losing because I was able to get up there, take a risk, and do something. I feel like I was successful in teaching people watching how to make their 321 Super Secret Dough without a recipe for sure.

Everything happens for a reason, and maybe, if I won easily, I would become complacent and feel like I had it all in the bag. I need to continue to grow and learn, take more chances and get out there. Thanks to all the people who have and continue to support me in my efforts! It is so very appreciated with all my heart.

For anyone who is interested in my 321 Super Secret Dough, here is the recipe. I hope you all try it! It only has six simple ingredients and takes minutes to make. This dough can be transformed into homemade pizza, rustic artisan-style bread, crispy breadsticks, savory flatbread, mini calzones (pizza balls), and much more. Even better, it can be made days in advance and kept covered in the fridge to be used at a later date. I call it the 321 recipe because it has 3 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of yeast, sugar and salt, and 1 2/3 cups of water.




• 3 Cups AP Flour
• 2 Teaspoons Yeast
• 2 Teaspoons Kosher Salt
• 2 Teaspoons Sugar
• 1 2/3 Cups Lukewarm Purified Water

1. Place the flours, yeast, salt, and sugar in a large bowl and mix with a fork until ingredients are evenly distributed.
2. Add the water and stir with a spoon until flour mixture is evenly wet (about a minute). Cover with a clean dishtowel and let sit for about 2 hours in a draft free area.
3. You can use the dough at this point, or store it in your fridge for later use up to four days. This much dough makes two pizzas and two loaves of bread.
4. Preheat oven with a pizza stone inside to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
5. Shape dough on a piece of parchment paper. For bread, rub the dough with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake until golden and hollow sounding (about 15 minutes). Pizza will bake in about 12-14 minutes.
6. Other applications include breadsticks, calzones, pizza balls, rolls...the possibilities are limitless!

No kneading necessary, the rise of bread actually kneads the dough on a molecule by molecule basis. Yeast needs a certain amount of oxygen to thrive, but excessive kneading introduces too much oxygen, and oxidizes the dough. We then lose the natural flavor of the bread as the dough turns whiter and whiter. We are not making wonder bread, we are making something that looks, feels and tastes handmade. This amount of dough will make about two large pizzas and a small loaf of bread.